Falling in Love...with yourself.
We have all heard it said that you must love you first, before you can really ever love someone else. That is so very true. But I would take it a step further...
You have to love yourself first before you can effectively love someone else...
It is possible to love another and not really love yourself all that much. But you are going to have lots of issues. Lack of self worth is going to get in there and cause you to not feel worthy of the love that you are receiving which will likely cause you to cling to it in a desperate or controlling way, which is sure to kill the love or you won’t value the love you receive and so you will cheapen it by failing to see how very much you are receiving. Perhaps an affair, perhaps just seemingly benign lack of appreciation. But if you can’t receive, you will not be able to experience love and that stunts both people.
As I am writing this, I am thinking to myself, “what the hell do you know about any of this?” “Who do you think you are to write this?”
And to my own inner critic I say this:
I have made all these mistakes. All these missteps. I have reached out and failed to connect. I have taken for granted love that was given to me. I failed to appreciate. I failed to value. I have been desperate. I have been controlling...oh so very often. I have made all of the mistakes. Every fucking one of them. So I do speak with some authority here. I have fucked it up over and over and over again.
Now I am in another relationship but I am not worried about fucking this one up. Why?
Because I have done the inner work on myself so that I am not a jangling bunch of nerves and neurotic emotions. I am me and while very imperfect, I have fallen in love with myself and now the addition of another no longer serves to fill a void, instead, he augments my life and is an endless source of wonder and light. If he should take his light elsewhere, I will be sad. I may even be devastated for a period of time. But I love me so we will ultimately be just fine...
I have had to fuck it up and spend a lot of time wandering in the dark. Afraid, alone, scared, running away. Mostly from myself but also from a lot of other people who tried to love me but I couldn’t let them. I could not stay and let them in. It was me...really. My inability to love myself always the thing that drove them or me out the door.
Today, I am ok alone. If I spent the rest of my days in solitude, I am perfectly ok with that. That seems a fitting end to my life. If I spend it with someone else, I know that I will still have my solitude because I need it, I crave it and it is the place where I meet myself sometimes for the first time. I cannot abandon myself to another anymore. I am not givawayable. In order to love, I have to be willing to share which means I hold enough of me for myself.
There is a big difference between sharing a cookie and giving a cookie away. I thought love was about giving away. I didn’t realize until very late in life that it is really all about sharing. I have to hold the commonality of experience, of love and like, of shared experience, I have to hold some of that back just for me so that I have something of value, if I have given it all away, the receptor gone with in me that allows for connection to take root and grow.
The fact that I love me today is the biggest asset I possess in my quest to love another. The fact that I see myself as worthy of my own love and esteem brings me that much closer to finding and keeping the love of another. Not in a codependent kind of way, but in a healthy, loving embrace kind of a way. Loving me has been a long road and I am far from perfect. But today, I love myself more than I ever have and because of that I have been willing to sit idle and just live my own life. The fact that I now have found someone to share that life with a little at a time, means that I am getting to practice the art of love on a deeper level than I ever thought possible.
Today I can give of myself and still have something left for me. I can love another without losing who I am and what I need. I can be a loving partner, wanting him to take care of himself and do what he needs to do without that need to match perfectly with mine. I know how to resolve the middle ground that often seemed so hard before, because I love myself, I am free to love him with abandon and with a healthy dose of faith because I know that what is most important is that I love myself enough to be honest with him. To be gentle and kind. To be present. To be able to give and receive freely.
I am not “there” I have not arrived in this place where I am good. I have to continue to love and practice that love of me in order to have a prayer of loving others. It all starts and ends with the place within me that I find something of value to share with another. Love not some prize to be insisted upon, demanded or owned. Love something that I possess for myself which frees me up to love others with a purpose and longing that doesn’t overtake me, but instead allows us both to be who we are and support each other, even if that ultimately means that what we each need goes in an opposite direction from each other. I can let go and trust that the love I share today may not be repaid in the manner that I so desire...but the love I keep, mostly for myself, will be the salvation of my heart and soul because though this life is shared with many, it is mine to walk alone.